I didn't put up any entries onto the blog yesterday since I was out of the house all day. First up was the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival at the Metro Library, and then after that my friends and I indulged in my other geeky hobby...enjoy the annual Marvel Comics movie. Of course, the big blockbuster event for 2015 (at least until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" lands on our shores at Xmas) has been "Avengers: Age of Ultron". I had a few issues with it but overall I had a good time with the sequel and will most likely be making a repeat viewing next week.
Alan Silvestri hit another grand slam out of the park with "The Avengers" theme along with that other homer he hit with the "Back To The Future" overture back in 1985. It's just that sort of song that will not only magnificently support Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but will probably automatically add those layers of gravitas and coolness to any homemade YouTube video about a group of friends coming together to achieve some big feat (professional baseball team or a bunch of geeks heading for ComiCon).
Seguing away from American big-screen to Japanese small-screen, television variety and news programs over there are more prone to bring in the musical accompaniment for their features. One example is "Theme of Luxury" by Fantastic Plastic Machine that seems to be the go-to tune whenever there is some sort of exploration of a trendy neighborhood in Tokyo or Yokohama. It's got that jaunty champagne-filled fun in the music, so whenever I used to hit Shibuya or Omotesando or Harajuku with friends, "Theme of Luxury" would get the automatic play in my head.
But there's an even older excerpt of a song that whenever I hear it, I get that "Ohhhh, boy....there's gonna be some major butt-kicking now" vibe that the theme to "The Avengers" has. In this case, though, the people involved in this show might be better known as "The Revengers".
This instrumental comes from the fifth entry in the long-running series known as "Hissatsu Shigotonin" (The Assassins) in 1985, and probably everyone and his cousin in Japan recognizes it from the first second. There is this sharp fanfare trumpet seemingly declaring a call to arms before the full orchestra rushes in with a melody that sounds like something apt for a spaghetti western, and yet it actually involves a group of Edo Era killers about to perform their stock in trade with ruthless professionalism.
I first remember hearing the tune which is apparently known as "Meido no Suzu ka, Jigokubana - Koroshi no Tema"（冥土の鈴か、地獄花～殺しのテーマ～...The Bells of Hell, Flower of Death ~ Killing Theme~）, according to the information for one YouTube video of the song, on samurai-based comedy skits on Ken Shimura's old show, and it always had Ken, supposedly in killer mode, with that theme playing before some silliness breaks it up. I later found out the original source for it as part of "Hissatsu Shigotonin". What surprised me is that the song was actually a lot more recent than I had thought. The first entry of the series started in 1979 but it took four more runs of the series before the famous theme appeared.
The other surprising thing is that "Meido no Suzu ka, Jigokubana" is the orchestral version of the official opening theme for "Hissatsu Shigotonin V" under the title of "Sayonara Sazanka" (Farewell, Camellia). It was sung by singer Emiko Fujita（藤田絵美子）who just happens to be the daughter of the star of the series, the late Makoto Fujita（藤田まこと）who played the warrior Mondo Nakamura. Unlike the Latin battle cry style of the instrumental version, the sung original struck me as being a very tenderhearted enka of regret in which the person in question can no longer return physically or spiritually to his/her old happier self. The lyrics were written by Seitaro Uyama（宇山清太郎）and composed by the veteran Masaaki Hirao（平尾昌晃）.